Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The humble OHP

I remember clearly the first time I used an OHP (Overhead Projector). It was a disaster. At that time, I was an Industrial Engineer in Philips Singapore; and I was offered an assignment to conduct a basic IE course for our butterflies and line leaders on a Saturday morning. “Butterflies” is the name we used for experienced female operators who had sufficient experience and skill to ‘float’ along and take up any position in the production line whenever the need arose. The honorarium they paid me was quite generous, even though I had no teaching experience.

The trouble started right at the beginning of my class. Before I even began my lecture, the light bulb of the OHP blew and I had to learn, on-the-job, how to change the bulb. I learned later that you should never move an OHP with the light turned on because the vibration could cause the fragile hot filament of the bulb to break. I must have looked like a bumbling idiot in front of those young ladies in my class.

This slim foldable 3M projector was popular with the trainers because it was highly portable; but it was expensive.
After I joined the National Productivity Board in 1984 as a trainer and management consultant, using the OHP became second nature to me. It is interesting to recall the evolution of the overhead transparency that was part of my daily tools for two decades until its demise with the advent of Powerpoint and the LCD projector.

First there was the Write-on Transparency. For this, you have to manually write the words on the plastic sheet using transparency markers of various colours like those below. My favourite brands were Faber Castell and Stabilo.

Then came the Photocopy Transparency. The year was probably around 1987, when we started to use the laser printer in NPB. I remember, we trainers had to submit our jobs to the typists to type out our transparencies on the Apple Macintosh and print them on a laser printer. Of course, the transparencies at that time were all black and white. Whenever I wanted to highlight certain portions of my slide, I had to cut out strips of sticky colour sheets and paste them over the relevant portions ... like this.

After that came the colour transparencies. But because they were quite expensive, I used them sparingly. I remember being one of the first to purchase a digital camera and I converted some of my important colour photo slides to transparencies to use in companies which did not have a (photo) slide projector. As a 5S trainer, I used a lot of (photo) colour slides.

The trainer’s life at the NPB was tough. At that time, we had an executive director who was a merciless slave driver. He seemed to harbour a special dislike for us trainers – possibly because we were such an egoistical lot (well, some of us at least), and dared to argue with him – and made life hell for us. Because of him, we demanded a meeting with our chairman, Mr Mah Bow Tan, to air our grievances. But, being the seasoned politician that he was, Mr Mah had little difficulty handling this bunch of featherweight trainers, and skillfully sidetracked the issues so that at the end of the meeting, we did not get to deliver a single of our carefully crafted speeches.

The toughest part of my work was when I had to travel overseas to conduct training. I had to lug along stacks of heavy transparencies in a huge bag like those used by airline pilots and doctors; not daring to include my precious transparencies in my check-in luggage. Hence, you can understand why, even at a quite senior age, I was quick to embrace the newer IT technologies like Powerpoint, and digital cameras when these came along in the 21st century. They made our lives much easier.

My eldest brother Chun Chew making a presentation at a PSA QCC Convention.
Me conducting an IE class at the NPB training room in the Cuppage Centre. Year should be around 1985 or 86. Judging from the training aids on the table, I must be teaching a class on the Principles of Motion Economy.
Me conducting an in-house 5S class. Cannot recall which company. Notice the gigantic (film) slide projector?
Incidentally, during my undergraduate days in the early 1970s, our lecturers did not even get to use the OHP. Everything was chalk and blackboard.

In my reservist days, I remember the SAF trainers used to come to the class with a plastic folder (green colour of course – every in the army seems to be green in colour) full of OHP slides mounted on cardboard frames.

Friday, November 08, 2013

I have been doing this for the past few years

My fellow nostalgia/heritage bloggers must have welcomed the news that former civil servant, Mr Quek Tiong  Swee, has donated 8,000 old photos of Singapore to the National Heritage Board. Mr Tiong had the foresight to see that, with Singapore’s rapid development, many places would disappear from the face of Singapore, and so he had captured them on film since the 1980s. I am proud to report that I too have been doing this, albeit in a small scale, for the past few years. Ever since I started blogging about the Singapore that I grew up in, I have been consciously taking photos of places that I suspect might undergo drastic changes shortly. This included old buildings and roads. And I have even encouraged readers of my blog to do the same; as I did here.

Unfortunately, due to lack of time, I did not do it in an organized manner. I seldom take the trouble to go to a place just for the purpose of photographing it; unless I planned to blog about it. Usually, I would take pictures of places that I happen to visit or pass by during the course of my work or leisure. Thankfully, my job requires me to travel all over Singapore, and thus I have many opportunities to do this. Another thing is that, I avoided going to the ‘popular’ places like the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station or the Bukit Brown Cemetery because I know that many people will be taking pictures of them and posting to Facebook or Flickr; and so there was no urgency for me to hop onto the bandwagon.

Regrettably, I may not be able to do this with the same amount of frequency soon because the COE of my car is expiring next month. With COE (Certificate of Entitlement) prices at the crazy levels that they are in, I can’t afford to cough out $80+k to renew my COE or replace it with a new one. But, I’ll still try my best.

Anyway, here are a few photos from my own collection of places/buildings that have already disappeared from the ever-changing landscape of Singapore since 2006. Let’s see how many you can score 10/10.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Converting VHS tape to DVD

My friend, Peter Chan, heard that I know how to convert VHS tapes to DVD using my VCR and DVD recorder and so he asked me to do him a “small favour”. Oh no! I thought to myself. This is going to take hours because I haven’t used my VCR for ages and the RP (Record-Playback) head was probably covered with fungus. Likewise his old video tape. I tried to stall, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. And so here is my report.

This is my VCR. I bought it a few years ago from a small shop in Boon Lay Shopping Centre after trying in vain at the big departmental stores like Courts and Harvey Norman. I used it to convert my collection of VHS tapes to DVD. When my children were young, I shot many hours of video of them using a video camera that recorded the video onto small VHS tapes. To play the tape on a normal VCR, you need to use a special adapter. I also have some expensive training videos from my work.

Just as I had expected, Peter’s video turned up a blue screen when I inserted it into my machine. Either his video was dirty with fungus, or my video head was dirty – probably both.

Next I searched for my tape cleaner. This machine cleans the mouldy VHS tape by spinning it at high speed both forward and reverse. Keeping my fingers crossed, I inserted Peter’s precious video tape into the machine and pressed the Forward button. Hallelujah, it works.

After spinning the tape a few times, each cycle taking several minutes, I tested it again on the VCR. Just as I had feared, it still produced a blue screen, but at least this time, there was some audio. And so came the tedious part of cleaning the video head. Without a cleaning tape, (what nut keeps a VCR cleaning tape in 2013) I had no choice but to do it the old fashioned way; by unscrewing the cover (just finding the Philips head screwdriver was a challenge) and cleaning the head manually with cleaning fluid and cotton buds.

After another frantic search I managed to find my bottle of video head cleaning fluid, only to discover that all the alcohol had evaporated. But thank God for a super-efficient wife who brought out a PC cleaning kit complete with alcohol, cotton buds and even an air brush; courtesy of a colleague from her school’s IT department.

After painstakingly cleaning the video head several times, I was confident that that Peter’s video could finally be played. After so much trouble, it’d better be good, I told myself as I inserted his precious video one more time into the VCR. I was expecting to see some romantic footages from his courtship days, but what eventually played was an episode of Money Mind featuring Martin Soong and a panel of business honchos. What can possibly be more boring, I ask you.

Anyway, the rest of the exercise should be relatively straightforward. Connect the VCR to the DVD recorder, record the programme on the hard disk, and then burn it onto a DVD by a process called dubbing. That’s what I thought, at least. But, for an oldie like me, with 老花眼 (presbyopia),  just connecting the audio-video cables to the Audio and Video Out ports was a hassle; requiring the aid of a torchlight. But that’s not all. There is still the tidying up; and I discovered that the wires at the back of my AV equipment were covered with a thick layer of dust.

By now you must be wondering why our friend was so ‘kan cheong’ (excited) about this boring tv programme from decades ago. Well; here’s the answer.